Burger King has temporarily abandoned its commitment to source “100% British and Irish beef” for its burgers and switched to German and Italian beef as a result of the horse DNA contamination scandal.

The burger chain announced yesterday (31 January) it had ended its relationship with Silvercrest, which used to supply it with British and Irish beef patties, and was currently using imported patties from Germany and Italy in its restaurants in the UK, Ireland and Denmark.

However, it added it would be looking to move back to UK and Irish beef when possible. “We remain committed to identifying suppliers that can produce 100% pure Irish and British beef products for us that meet our high quality standards,” Burger King vice president for global quality Diego Beamonte said.

Initially, the Burger King UK website continued to state “we only use great cuts of prime beef (flank and forequarter) and our burgers are 100% British & Irish beef”, but the company has since removed references to Irish and British beef, stating simply “our burgers are 100% beef”.

Burger King ditched British and Irish beef on 23 January, after Silvercrest – which is part of ABP Food Group – started being investigated for horse DNA contamination following a food composition survey by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

The FSAI survey tested only beef burger products sold in supermarkets, and Burger King initially assured the public its products were unaffected by the horse DNA scandal as Silvercrest made Burger King products on a separate production line.

But yesterday, Burger King was forced to back-track on its previous reassurances because new tests on products made at Silvercrest for Burger King had come back positive for traces of horse DNA. Investigations found that Silvercrest had used “a small percentage of beef imported from a non-approved supplier in Poland”, and that this supplier was “the same company identified by the Irish Department of Agriculture as the source of Silvercrest’s contamination issue”, Burger King said.

It added this was a “clear violation of our specification”, which required Silvercrest to supply 100% British and Irish beef patties, and it had therefore terminated its relationship with the company.

Burger King stressed the products that tested positive for horse DNA had not actually made it from Silvercrest to its restaurants, and that DNA tests on burgers in sale in its outlets had come back negative for horse.

The company said it was now assessing what additional measures, including DNA tests and “enhanced traceability controls”, it should introduce to ensure contamination problems do not happen again. It added it had already carried out DNA checks on its new suppliers from Germany and Italy to satisfy itself their beef products did not contain horse DNA.

Burger King’s decision to ditch Silvercrest comes after Tesco, The Co-operative Group and Aldi Ireland announced they had terminated their contracts with the company because of the horse DNA scandal earlier this week.